movie-film-cannister.jpgLos Angeles – In the largest Internet copyright infringement case in United States history, a federal judge is permitting the U.S. Copyright Group (USCG) to subpoena Internet service providers for the identities of 23,000 file sharers who illegally downloaded the film “The Expendables.”  The USCG is a plaintiff’s organization which brings together independent film companies to engage in protecting their copyrighted materials by suing people in the U.S. who have allegedly used the P2P file sharing networks to illegally download movies.

The order to allow the subpoenas was issued on March 17th by U.S. District Judge Robert L. Wilkins.  As a result of the order, the thousands of people who chose to illegally download the movie will have to decide whether to shell out thousands of dollars to settle with USCG or to face possible damages of up to $150,000 per infringement.  The USCG uses custom software to monitor bit torrent swarms of selected movies and then records the IP addresses of the file sharers.  With the recent order from the court, the USCG will be able to force the ISP’s to release the identities of the file-sharers.  The file-sharers will then receive a letter from the USCG with the threat of a lawsuit or the option to settle up for anywhere between $1000-$3000. 

The USCG was formed in early 2010 and in its first year had filed copyright infringement claims against 16,000 people.  The group has received major pushback from the EFF, the ACLU, and Time Warner Cable.  The USCG faced legal troubles of its own when it was sued in November 2010 for allegedly engaging in fraud and extortion by offering settlements without full intent to sue and for having falsified a movie’s date of first publication.